beginning of most band method books. A locker mirror or other small mirror on their music stand will work well.
The Sounds of Practice
There are several sounds that you should be hearing when your child is practicing. Students should be practicing music we play in class in an effort to make their performance in class and on stage truly outstanding.
This is what parents should hear
The beeping of a metronome – For home practice, students should use a metronome 95% of the time. This will help them keep steady tempo.
Counting and Clapping – Counting out rhythms (like learning to read words) and then combining those rhythms with steady tempo will help your child develop motor skills and learn the concept of simultaneous responsibilities.
Note-naming – Students should be saying the note names out loud while reading the staff lines of our music. This should also be done with a metronome, and ultimately, while fingering or positioning the notes being spoken.
Essential Sounds – Students should be working on their sound with just the mouthpiece, mouthpiece and barrel, or head joint. This sound might be slightly irritating (especially with beginners), but it is crucial to their development of correct embouchure and tone quality. They should work for a steady sound that does not waver.
Long Tones – The first sounds a student should make on their assembled instrument should be long and smooth tones. Their tone quality is one of the most important aspects of learning their instrument during the early years. Again, they should work for a steady sound that does not waver. Playing into a tuner with an open and relaxed sound, and keeping the “needle” perfectly steady can achieve this.
This is what parents should NOT hear
Goofing Off – Students sometimes become inquisitive about their instrument and to try to make “unique” sounds as a result. They should never make deliberately poor sounds on their instrument. Students should not attempt to play extremely high or fast notes, including “sound effects.”
Just the Music – Students should enjoy practicing and should want to play songs. However, at this point in their musical lives, they should also understand the importance of fundamentals. You should not only hear songs when they practice. Your child should be doing fundamental exercises along with note-naming and rhythm counting.
Silence – Sometimes students try to say they have been practicing note- naming and rhythm counting for their entire practice time, but this should not be the case. Students should play their instrument for at least two-thirds of their practice time.
Parent Practice: What you can do to assist your child
Make every attempt to ensure you are helping your child practice the correct way, with a good quality instrument, emulating the band program’s philosophy and regimen. All parents can help their child practice by doing any or all of the following:
Create a Healthy Environment – Make sure they are practicing in a comfortable place as described above. Do not allow siblings to distract your child during practice. Also, please do not send them away or outside to practice. Practice should not become a negative experience for your child.
Scheduled Times – Create a regular practice time for your child (preferably when you are home to hear him/her practice). When the habit of practicing at the same time every day occurs, your child’s practice routine will solidify.
Performances at Home – Schedule a time every few days for your child to perform music for your family and/or friends. Encourage them to perform music or other concepts that they are playing in class or in their private lessons. This will allow them to have performance goals outside of class.
Ask Questions – Have your child explain what his or her plan is for their practice session. Ask them about upcoming playing tests, assigned homework, or other class assignments such as scales, flow studies, or other warm-ups. Also, this is an opportunity for the child to teach the parent, which will make your child feel like a million bucks!
Observe Your Child Practice – From time to time, listen to your child practice. Ask them to explain the process that they go through for each part of their practice session. You can also time them on note- naming games, breathing gym games, or rhythm card games. Feel free to mix it up!
If the Band Director requires practice logs/records, please do not “just sign” the practice log/record. Make sure your child is actually doing their homework for band. If you are uncertain, have them play for you on the assigned material for that day with this guide in front of you as a reference. It can empower you both to be successful and their efforts will be rewarding, not just individually, but to the band as a whole.
The quality of daily home practice time directly impacts their playing level on their instruments. Thank you for supporting your child’s musical goals!
See you at the next concert!
Resources for Parents: National Association of Music Parents http://www.amparents.org
SmartMusic Practice System www.smartmusic.com
Marc Whitlock currently serves as the band director for Discovery Middle School in the Plymouth-Canton school district in Canton, Michigan. Mr. Whitlock’s teaching duties include two brass classes, two woodwind classes, one percussion class, three concert bands, and several chamber ensembles. n
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